Successful companies are extremely innovative.
By listening to market trends, talking with customers and solving problems, they oftentimes come up with products or services that are novel, new, or applied in a manner that has never been done before. There surely is value in this new concept, product, or service that they are bringing to the market. Therefore, it is proprietary in nature.
Protecting your intellectual property, especially for smaller companies, offers some interesting challenges and different points of view as to what to do and how to do it.
When considering the different points of view, always make your choice based on what aligns with your long-term strategy.
Think About the Options
First, always ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place. This is the most important part.
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Then think about the different ways to protect your products and services. Ensure that you have the necessary non-disclosure agreements and proprietary information agreements in place with your key suppliers and even customers. Mark all drawings, sketches and diagrams appropriately.
Be cautious as to what you share on the internet and really determine what you feel is your core technology that you want to consider protecting. Maybe you don’t need to protect all your intellectual property.
You may decide that you want to protect your proprietary products through a patent strategy or simply may want to trademark your brand for brand equity purposes.
Whatever you decide, think of it as a long-term strategy.
If you choose to use the patent approach, ask yourself:
Why am I doing this?
How much money am I willing to spend on developing, defending and protecting my patents?
Is offering patents on new product or service development part of my overarching strategy to create extra business value?
Am I obtaining a patent simply for market credibility?
Do I have a plan to license my technology to others?
How does your decision align?
Whatever you incorporate, make sure it has staying power and is part of a long-term strategy where investors, possible partners, or business suitors find intrinsic value in what it is that you do.
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Innovation happens in many ways and to consistently innovate
is part of a speed to market strategy where your business is innovative with customers and so entrenched in their value stream that you are “boxing out the competition”. That, in and of itself, is proprietary in nature and it is shared between you and your customer.
There are many great success stories of companies that have used patent strategies as a part of their business. One such $70MM company with minimal profit sold their business for a multiple 5 times their sales. The buyer knew of their strategy and that they were patenting a technology that was going to be accepted in a much wider market space. What they did was thoughtful and part of their overall strategy. It wasn’t simply getting a patent for the sake of having one.
Have you protected your intellectual property? If so, does it align with a long-term strategy?
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